The human being shall be the highest value in the Republic of Armenia; in any case, it is enshrined in the Constitution. In order to prevent human rights violations and restore the violated rights, the Republic of Armenia has established numerous mechanisms, one of which is the establishment of the Office of Ombudsperson, which undertook the obligation to record the shortcomings of the state in the field of human rights protection in order to raise them, thus ensuring the dignified life of human beings as the highest value. The principles of equality and impartiality should be at the core of the Ombudsperson’s activities, which means that the assessment of the Ombudsperson about a certain situation must not depend on any feature of the injured party or the victim. But the activities of the current Ombudsperson call into question the supremacy of these principles.
The Ombudsperson has published the annual report of 2019, which summarizes the situation of protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Republic of Armenia. The report addresses the existing problems in various areas of law. The results of the monitoring of the rights of certain groups – military, women, people with disabilities, children, the elderly, LGBT people and others – are also presented.
Seems that the inclusion of many areas of public life in the Ombudsperson’s report is the result of their impartial work, but it is only from the first glance. In fact, the section on the rights of LGBT people is very brief, the analysis is greedy, and the assessment is vague and general.
It is noteworthy that the report’s reference to the rights of LGBT people is very limited and evasive. It only includes certain information about discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, but discrimination on the basis of gender identity is not generally discussed. LGBT people face discrimination in different spheres of social life, including the sphere of implementation of their rights, but there is nothing about it in the report. For comparison, other sections of the report, dedicated to separate groups, are more voluminous and the problems in dissimilar aspects during implementation of the rights are raised.
It should be noted that the references to the most problematic groups subjected to discrimination and problem areas are separated by chapters their sub-chapters, and the description of the rights of LGBT people is limited to 1.5 pages and is included in the “Other Rights” chapter with non-primary human rights issues. This approach of the Ombudsperson reasonably casts doubt on his impartiality, as a number of domestic and international organizations have repeatedly reported that the LGBT community in Armenia is the most vulnerable in terms of discrimination and hate speech.
Ombudsperson also avoids talking about specific cases. In the case when all the people who suffered from human rights violations during the events that received a wide public response were mentioned in the report as victims, Ombudsperson did not point to Lilit Martirosyan as the victim of human rights violations in 2019, after her speech in the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia on April 5, when she was exposed to the discourse of discrimination, hate speech and threats. It should also be noted that the mentioned event was not properly criticized by the Ombudsperson even after that: the announcement spread by the official was inaccurate.
Through being indifferent to the presence and manifestations of discrimination against LGBT people, the Ombudsperson involuntarily becomes an advocate of discrimination and, by their silence, creates fertile ground for the atmosphere of discrimination and impunity.
We think that such approach by the Ombudsperson undermines the proper implementation of the highest mission assigned to them – the protection of individual’s rights. We are hopeful that during 2020 and until the end of their term in office, the current Ombudsperson of the Republic of Armenia will respond to the violations of the rights of LGBT people accordingly to their mission. At the same time, we are ready to support the activities of the Ombudsperson by investing the human resources of the organization in the form of knowledgeable specialists in order to eliminate the shortcomings or gaps in the field.